By Anna Patterson

Brittany Kotheimer MacWilliams is cultivating a new generation of musicians. Photo by Melissa Donald 

Concertgoers in the crowded theater applaud as you take the stage. Behind you sits a full orchestra, awaiting the conductor’s downbeat. Your dress swishes as you raise your violin to your chin. You are the soloist, the one everyone has come to hear.

Oh, and you are also 10 years old.

Brittany Kotheimer MacWilliams began playing the violin at age 3. Her relationship with the violin was not an instant love affair — like many children, Brittany did not always enjoy practicing. Her turning point was her solo debut with the Louisville Orchestra at age 10. The thrill of performing, the excitement of live music, the joy of giving the gift of music to others — Brittany was hooked for life.

Brittany left her Louisville home for Cincinnati to pursue her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in violin performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). For about 12 years, Brittany remained in Cincinnati with teaching positions at Xavier University, CCM and the Cincinnati Starling Project, a pre-college string program.

But her Kentucky home was calling. Brittany returned to Louisville with her husband and children and is now on faculty at the University of Louisville School of Music teaching violin and viola.

Since returning to Louisville, Brittany has become founder and director of the University of Louisville String Academy. This program caters to high-level pre-college string players, offering a variety of performance opportunities, chamber music, music theory, and masterclasses.
In April 2014, the String Academy was awarded a $240,000 grant from the Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation — a prestigious honor very few university programs receive. The grant allows for the majority of String Academy students to participate on scholarship, opening the door to more string players. “I want to see all of these students reach their full potential, go off and do great things in music and in life,” Brittany says. “It is so rewarding to see the impact String Academy has on our students — and I am excited for the program’s future and its greater influence on our community.”

Apart from her teaching career, Brittany also performs regularly, and she is a mother of three. “It’s a juggling act,” Brittany says. “There are always multiple balls in the air.” It’s a constant mental battle: Are her kids being neglected? Are her students getting enough attention? Is she over-practicing? Not practicing enough? “You’re balancing from one foot to the next,” Brittany says, “and sometimes you might fall on your face. But you get back up and move forward. You have to realize you can’t control everything.”

At age 38, Brittany has formed a career that continues to grow. Her advice for teachers: Inspire young people. The students at String Academy are the future of the Louisville music community. Brittany and her colleagues are building a foundation and appreciation for classical music that can in turn inspire a city, a state, and who knows — even the world.